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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Philosoraptor On The Original Balla’

Wilt Chamberlain was the original balla’.

Standing at 7 foot 1, he once scored 100 points in a single NBA game and infamously claimed to have slept with 20,000 women in his life. His relentless swag meant that even philosophers took notice of him. Indeed, a famous thought experiment revolves directly around Wilt. Devised by Robert Nozick, it is meant to illuminate the constant trade-off between freedom and equality that we society faces.

Imagine that we’ve set up society such in a way that we consider fair. Maybe this means that everyone has exactly the same amount of resources or maybe it means that no-one has too much more than anyone else. It doesn’t really matter, as long as the distribution in society matches your ideal pattern of fair distribution.

But then imagine that Wilt Chamberlain comes along and start to dominate the courts on a nightly basis, and charges people some tiny fee like 50c to watch him play. After a while, Wilt is going to amass a fortune even though it doesn’t seem like any of the transactions were exploitative at all. Why is this a problem? Because the society would now contain a massive inequality, and violate the pattern which we think is fair. This questions conceptions of justice which take a snapshot of society and evaluate it against an ideal pattern. By no means does this undermine the notion that certain types of society might be fairer than others. But it shows that a blind fealty to a principle of justice can undermine the simple human freedom to live the lives we choose. Wilt deserves his cash-money; we should be free to give it to him.

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